The Australian Computer Society (ACS) on Monday released a report indicating that ICT skills shortages will grow to 14,000 jobs by 2010, and will continue to reach 25,000 by 2020 unless government and industry heighten collaboration to ease the skills shortages.
ACS President Kumar Parakala issued a call to the federal government to recognise that the ICT skills shortage is a major hurdle in Australia's future economic prosperity.
"Now is the time for 2020 vision for our sector. We are calling on Prime Minister Rudd to acknowledge the need to address this as a national issue if Australia is to continue to prosper," he said.
The report was conducted by the Centre for Innovative Industry Economic Research Incorporated (CIIER) - a "facility, repository and think-tank" for research and data on high-tech industries that is backed by the Whitehorse Strategic Group - as part of a two-year ACS ICT Skills Forecasting Project aiming to quantify and qualify the supply and demand needs of ICT skills and employment in Australia.
The report found that addressing the skills shortage with temporary 457 migrant visas is "insufficient and will not close the gap on future demands for skilled ICT workers".
Parakala said the report highlighted the need for ICT to be given the same focus as other vital Australian industry sectors, and for government and industry to collaborate further in finding a solution to the shortages.
"The industry has been sounding the alarm on skills for a number of years, and unfortunately we are now close to tipping point on this issue," Parakala said.
"This is a situation that urgently requires a long-term partnership between governments and industry for the economic benefit of all Australians."
The ACS quoted Australian Bureau of Statistics data on industry sector contributions to the Australian economy, finding that ICT contributes 4.9 percent to Gross Value Add, boasting a larger contribution than mining, education, defence, agriculture and the individual manufacturing sectors.
"The report shows the consistent growth of the ICT industry and its role in the success of the economy. Australia can no longer view ICT in isolation, and this requires a whole of government approach under the leadership of Prime Minister Rudd," Parakala said.
The report recommended three key measures to ease the growing skills gap and maintain economic prosperity of the ICT sector:
According to ACS CEO Kim Denham, the next phase of the ICT Skills Forecast Project will "shed light on the specific skills needed to ease ICT skills shortages in the next five to 10 years to help inform appropriate policies for the industry".
The CIIER is currently conducting a national ICT skills needs survey for its next report, entitled the Shape of Future ICT Employment, to determine exactly what kinds of jobs will be in demand over the next five, 10 and 15 years.
"The ICT skills shortage needs to be better understood, as it will have a long-term effect on Australia's economic performance. Unfortunately, the most likely outcome on current settings shows continued and rapidly growing ICT skills shortages, which would inevitably translate into reduced economic performance for all Australian industry sectors," Denham said.
The Quantifying Current and Forecast ICT Employment report can be viewed on the ACS Web site.